WordPress theme authors and Themes team contributors are exploring ways to make block themes more visible in the official directory. These are themes that are specifically marked with full site editing support. Although WordPress has a block theme for its most recent default theme, authors have been slow to create more. There are currently only 86 themes that support the full range of WordPress site editing capabilities.
A meta trac ticket opened five weeks ago suggests prioritizing block themes in the directory. Sandilya Kafle, contributor to the Themes team, kicked off the discussion with two ideas:
- Add a new tab in theme repository (Popular, Latest, Block)
- Modify popular themes algorithm and add 1 block theme in 1 of 10 popular themes.
“There might be another way to encourage block theme authors to contribute more,” Kafle said.
“We don’t always need it, but we can try it for at least a year and see how it goes. Block themes need attention and encouragement. Only very few FSE themes are properly maintained.
The idea was immediately shot down by WordPress contributor Joy Reynolds.
“If block themes are the future and are better and easier, they don’t need further promotion,” Reynolds said. “Since the WP software handles both, it is very disrespectful to authors who have followed all the rules to build their placement in the repository, that WP suddenly gives the new type an advantage. (The site editor always has a “beta” label.) All themes should be treated equally.
Sarah Norris, contributor to the Automattic Sponsored Themes team, was more supportive of the idea, noting that block themes are “a different type of theme than regular themes and allow for many different features.” She said putting “Block” in the Themes Directory menu next to “Last” would be “a nice little first step.”
WordPress theme author Rich Tabor addressed the criticism of the proposal and reframed it to be more focused on improving the visibility of block themes.
” I do not think that priority is absolutely the right context,” Tabor argued. “Block themes are categorically different from ‘classic’ themes, due to the nature of the theme, site editor experience, and overall styles.
“It’s not that block themes should be prioritized, but rather that this is a new class of themes that diverge from the classic WordPress theme experience. unknowingly from a block theme (like the default Twenty Twenty-Two theme) to a classic theme, it will lose core WordPress functionality that it may be familiar with/rely on.
Currently, the list of FSE themes is buried in three clicks. These are the themes that work with all the latest WordPress features and they shouldn’t be so hard to find. Users should know to navigate to the “Features Filter” menu item, select “Full Site Edit”, and then click “Apply”. Not everyone who uses the theme directory will understand the limitations of legacy themes when selecting a theme.
“Last week in the FSE hangout, we also discussed the issue of block themes not appearing in the theme repository,” Ellen Bauer, Theme and Block Developer, commented on the ticket. “As a result, users are simply unaware that WordPress is introducing these new themes along with full site editing functionality. I don’t think it’s beneficial for WordPress.
Bauer came up with an even bolder approach to presenting FSE themes, which mirrors the design of the plugin directory. This approach would prominently display block themes above classic themes at the top of the page.
“We can add a second similar section on the theme page the same way as on the plugin page with ‘Block-Enabled Plugins’,” she offered. “So we could add “block themes” or “themes compatible with the full site edition” above the usual list of themes. This would add to a consistent experience between finding plugins and themes, which makes sense to me.
WordPress lead developer Dion Hulse weighed in on the technical challenges of the proposed solutions and concluded that redoing the front page of the directory would likely be the best way to solve the needs communicated in the ticket. He updated the headers in the WordPress Theme Directory – Local Development Environment and added development notes to the Readme file to get started, if contributors want to work on the project.
The ticket is still open for discussion for anyone who wants to add comments or contribute to this improved theme directory.